I’ll be honest, as excited as I was for the Maru vs Taiei match, this episode took me a while to get into. As a whole, there were a lot of little things that I thoroughly enjoyed… but this match didn’t bring me that same investment and enjoyment that we got in the Shinjo match. BUT in all fairness, as Maru High isn’t exactly the focus of the story, it’s understandable that they would have only given us one episode. Would I have liked a little more? Absolutely! But if anything, I’m really looking forward to the final match of the anime.
I think it was pretty interesting to have the episode start out with a conversation with Nabe and Mokichi since they are two characters that don’t typically interact with one another (especially Nabe as he always seems to be paired up with someone else). It was a nice scene where Nabe could express his feelings about his place in the team and show that he’s serious about improving himself on the court. It was also nice to hear Mokichi’s thoughts as to what kind of player he’d have on the court. But despite it being a nice interaction… it still felt a little out of place. It was good conversation, but then we immediately jump over to the ongoing match and never hear from these two for the remainder of the episode. If anything, at the end of the episode it shows that practically everyone except those two (and Yasu and Chucky) decided to scope out the team the would be playing against soon.
As for the match itself, I wasn’t as invested in it as I was hoping to be – it was cool that we got to get a little bit of background for Shiraishi and can’t wait for more, but I just didn’t have the character buy in for it. Chiba and Tokiwa are pretty cool characters and I loved that our aces got to go up against one another, but because of the pacing of the match everything was very rushed. Of course, it still sets up Taiei as a real force to beat, but you know what? Kuzu High still takes the cake for inspiration, they’re the true underdogs and I cannot help but cheer for them! But I will admit that I liked the idea of “If you wanna win, go get the points yourself” regarding the other team. I liked how it was used to frame Shiraishi and his resolve to improve at the game, but! it also highlights the point that was brought up about Taiei not being the best at playing as a team. Individually, yeah! They’re all fantastic and skilled players, but as a collective? Well, I have a feeling we’ll see a little bit of a team breakdown once the they take on Kuzu.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the episode are the post-match moments. It was heartbreaking to see Chiba so defeated, but it was heartwarming to 1) see him get scouted and 2) see Takahashi & Kojima intercept the recruitment. It managed to turn things around in a positive direction and honestly? I love the idea that Takahashi & Kojima are a duo determined to set up a team wherever they go, and I support them (and Chiba if he decides to follow them! “Let’s start a revolution together”, I support you!). I genuinely expected Chiba to end up in a state similar to Taro after this match, but I’m glad they could swoop in and bring some joy. I also really enjoyed Momoharu following Sora and Nao after the match primarily because of Sora’s thoughts on all his teammates. If anything, it makes me excited for this final match.
So overall, while I thought this episode was a bit rough, I am looking forward to what will come. I think there’s still potential as we head into the final match and I can’t wait to see what they will bring.